Seed Varieties for the Gardener Who Has Seen Everything

February 16, 2012

I normally post a winter article related to heirloom seed catalogs, but this year I thought I’d change it up a bit by listing some awesome seed companies that you’ve probably never even heard of.

The seed suppliers featured today have a narrower focus, smaller inventory of varieties, or specialize in providing seeds adapted to a particular region. Some of these companies are devoted to the preservation of seeds that have been handed down from groups such as the Native Americans, while others are working to diversify and adapt open pollinated varieties for improved production under varied conditions.

I published a previous article that questioned whether printed seed catalogs were outdated and a waste of resources, but I admit that I wouldn’t have discovered at least one of the sources on the list today if it weren’t for a random catalog that found its way into my mailbox!

Native Seeds/SEARCH

One of my favorite new seed company finds is Native Seeds/SEARCH. It’s also the one that I may never have stumbled across if it hadn’t been for a recent catalog that was mailed to my door. Their catalog is only 64 pages long but jammed full of photos, variety descriptions of native seeds, and interesting information on the cultural practices of the Southwest Native American peoples.

The “SEARCH” in this company’s name stands for; Southwest Endangered Aridlands Resource Clearing House, and should give you an idea that their seeds are not necessarily for everyone or every garden. But they are definitely unique and interesting and I enjoyed browsing through their catalog. If I take a trip I’m considering to Arizona later this year I will definitely make it a point to stop by and visit their retail store in Tucson.

Richters Herbs; Home of the Seed Zoo

Richters is a Canadian seed house that offers a wide selection of herb seeds, plants, and vegetables. They do ship to the U.S. and are a great source for certain rare and medicinal plants. They also carry live roots, tubers, bulbs, and mushroom spawn for the home garden. Rounding out their inventory is a supply of books, herbal extracts, essential oils, and gardening related DVD’s.

This is also the home of Richters Seed Zoo, a special and limited collection of rare and endangered plants from around the world. You never know what wild varieties you will come across when you visit the seed zoo. The prices are high, availability scarce, and the seed counts are low; but that reflects the fact that these are endangered varieties intended for growers interested in growing them out to save for seed and preservation purposes!

Adaptive Seeds and the Seeds Ambassadors Project

The Adaptive Seeds website provides the following introduction: “We grow and steward rare, diverse and resilient seed varieties and distribute these to other ecologically minded farmers, gardeners and seed savers. Most of our seed is adapted to the Pacific Northwest and short season northern climates.” They offer open pollinated seeds and diverse genepool mixes that are raised without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

I’ve always been attracted to the diversity of landrace mixes and Adaptive Seeds offers some interesting ones including a purple tomatillo and a hardy survivor turnip selected from a six root grex. Some of the other Adaptive Seed varieties that I am intrigued by are their assortment of unusual kale varieties and the miscellaneous leafy greens that they offer.

Logee’s Plants for Home and Garden

For those who are more interested in growing rare fruits, Logee’s may be just what you are looking for. From edible to ornamental you will discover a variety of rare and tropical fruits for the garden. Even if your climate isn’t tropical, Logee’s specializes in plants that will do just fine when raised in containers and moved indoors to survive the cold winters.

Their catalog is one that you can give to any gardener whether their focus is ornamentals, edibles, herbs, or landscapes, and they will be able to find something new that will interest them! Currently on my wish list are their Goumi and Aronia plants which I am considering as additions to the new ornamental edible front yard landscape that I am creating.

Wild Garden Seeds from Gathering Together Farm

Wild Garden Seed is a small seed supplier that I have featured here before but they are a good fit with the other seed supply companies listed above. Aside from their extensive lettuce seed collection, Wild Garden Seed has a limited number of varieties but an unlimited amount of charm from the unique seeds that they carry!

Captivating selections include their Alexanders, the Flashback Mixes of Calendulas, a Glossy Epazote, an older strain of Lacinato Kale, and select mixes that include Wild Garden Fennels, a Perennial Insectary Mix, and some “Secret Lettuce Mixes.” All of their seeds are organically grown at Gathering Together Farm located in Philomath, Oregon, and are open pollinated and untreated.

Seedaholic Native Seeds and Wildflowers

If you’re still reading that’s a good indication that you have a serious seed addiction! But instead of a 12 Step Program Seedaholic offers exotic strains of familiar plants that will keep you strung out and coming back for more of their interesting and unique varieties. This company is based in Ireland but I’ve received orders in about ten days with great service and a personal touch that was very much appreciated!

Seedaholic offerings are divided into categories that include; medicinal herbs, companion plants, heritage varieties, and ancient crops. There’s also a full section of varieties designated as “important for bees,” and an “Easy Bee Collection” of flowers to give bees a boost. I love the detailed information sheets that are included with each packet of seed and go far beyond what suppliers typically provide.

Supporting Small-Scale Seed Producers and Independent Seed Houses

The popularity of heirloom seeds has grown and companies like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and the Seed Savers Exchange  have grown right along with them, but there are many smaller growers and independent seed houses that deserve our support. Some like Native Seeds/SEARCH offer memberships, accept donations, and provide discounts to assist specific groups such as Native American farmers.

There are many other small seed houses such as Siskiyou Seeds and Terroir Seeds, and even one person seed shops like Amishland Heirloom Seeds and Carol Deppe’s supplying great selections for the garden. If you have a favorite small, regional, or specialty seed house that is producing heirloom or organic seed stocks, feel free to give them a little recognition in the comment section below. Thanks!

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  • chris

    can’t wait to get ahold of the catalogs you mentioned.

  • I wanted to mention for the seed buyers on a budget who still want to avoid Montsanto and buy nonGMO seeds.

  • I’ll be trying out a few of them soon.

  • I lived on Vancouver Island in British Columbia for a few years and there are a whole bunch of excellent organic seed growers such as Salt Spring Seeds. I think most of them ship only in Canada, though.

  • I live in the UK and its always nice to obtain unusual or “old fashioned” seeds. So much better than a mass produced version.

  • this provide wide selection., and variety of information for selecting varieties of seed. this is useful to me. thank you. I actually host a weekly gardening link up every Friday on my blog. I’d love for you to drop by and join in.

  • Really helpful information you shared about companies providing seeds and same are your tips..Thanks

  • I love the seedaholic. They offer some amazing plants which are so easy to grow.

  • Emma Jarsen

    My favorite heirloom seed company is Virtual Farm Seed Co. It’s an independent family owned business & I’ve had great luck with their seeds. Everything germinates beautifully. The best part is that they only charge $2 shipping for any size order. All the other heirloom seed companies have big minimum orders to get a reasonable shipping price. I like being able to place 2 or 3 orders each year to pick up the seeds I forgot to buy the first time!

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